Rhodri Marsden: When it comes to saucy pictures, trust no one. Least of all yourself

 

The case of John Schindler is a curious one. A former NSA analyst and, until recently, a professor at the US Naval War College, he resigned on Tuesday following a college investigation into whether a widely circulated picture of his penis was actually his.

In May, as part of a consensual text message exchange with an unnamed woman, a man alleged to be Schindler sent a picture of his penis. She replied, expressing surprise at its size. That exchange was screengrabbed by the woman and leaked on Twitter shortly afterwards.

As a consequence of this, Schindler is no longer in his post, and it prompts a number of questions. One of them is why a former NSA analyst who presumably knew a bit about operations security would have allowed himself to be put in such a position. Another is why Schindler felt forced to resign. Yes, the world may have seen his penis, but he wasn't the one who showed it to us. Perhaps, as a married man, his implied infidelity was frowned upon by his employers, but without the penis furore it probably wouldn't have been such a big deal.

There was another recent case in Savannah, Georgia, where pupils gained access to a female teacher's phone and enthusiastically shared her naked photos online. Again, the teacher was dismissed from her post, presumably unable to continue because people had seen her breasts. But the moral judgements being made are lacking in consistency. Another teacher in Pasadena recently went unreprimanded after his email was hacked and naked photos of him were sent to friends and colleagues.

A specific law was passed last year in California to prohibit the dissemination of sexually explicit photos belonging to someone else, and that may have persuaded his employer that he was the victim of a malicious act. But so was Schindler, and so was the teacher in Savannah. "Revenge porn" is a term used to describe disgruntled ex-partners posting naked pictures online, but all these cases amount to the same thing. Your privacy has been maliciously compromised, and it's not your fault.

"Oh, it certainly IS your fault," I hear people cry, people who view the taking of intimate photos with the same disdain as they view zoophilia. But such pictures exist for one of two reasons. Either someone has been placed under pressure by their partner (a horribly insidious form of control) or they've done it willingly, driven by sexual impulse. Long gone are the days where people would take a Polaroid of their own genitals, wave the picture around for a bit, watch it develop, look at it, pop it in an envelope and wander down to the postbox. That gave time for reflection. Today, we live in an age of instant, technology-driven gratification, and while no provocative snaps of me exist, I wouldn't blame anyone for succumbing to the temptation.

But having succumbed, your pictures will lie around in digital form. There must be millions upon millions of lewd snaps across the globe, sitting on email servers, phones, tablets, laptops, cameras and so on.

Given that data is never as safe as we think it is, that adds up to a whole heap of brooding anxiety as we ponder the motives and future actions of anyone we share intimate moments with. The woman who quite literally exposed Schindler explained that she only "wanted to inform his wife and embarrass him". In some parts of the world, she'd have broken the law, but Schindler's the one paying the price for misguidedly placing his trust in someone. The moral of all this is probably "trust no one, least of all yourself". And that feels like an unpleasant place for us all to be sitting.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

    Ashdown Group: Linux Administrator - London - £50,000

    £45000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator ...

    Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Analyst - London - £45,000

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL Server Reporting Analyst (Busine...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003